Editors Talk Poetry Acceptances: Elizabeth Powell, Editor of Green Mountains Review
As a platform for emerging poets, our mission is to provide practical help for serious writers. The community lifts itself up together or not at all. In that light, we’ve been asking some great editors from around the literary community for their frank thoughts on why poems may get accepted/rejected from their own slush pile of submissions, and what poets can do to better their chances. Today, we’re speaking with Elizabeth Powell, Editor of Green Mountains Review.
From a craft standpoint, what causes you to accept a poem?
Elizabeth Powell: First, I have to be lured into the poem by a voice I trust or find thrilling or smart or inventive in someway. Once I’m securely in the perimeter of the poem, I like to feel what it is like living there. What is the lineation like, does it mirror the breath? Is it a revelation or formal choice? Then I dig into imagery and figuration and varied language or speech acts, and see if I want to hang out in the poem for a good while.
What advice do you have for new poets who are submitting work?
Stay true to you. Stay true to nurturing your original voice and vision no matter what anyone else says. Then turn toward craft as a rocket launcher to send your voice and vision into orbit.
If there were one craft technique that you wish poets would focus on, what would it be?
Image using all the senses not just sight. Imagery and metaphor invite me into the poem in the deepest sense.
How many rejections have you faced and how do you deal with them?
Perseverance is my secret service name. Ha. No really, I’ve had more no in my life than sugar. The thing is rejection is a kind of strange protection. It grows you and makes you love yourself despite what others say or do. In terms of people, sometimes rejection really is a higher force keeping you from danger. A rejection of your words is an opportunity to work through deeper rejections one has faced. Everything is fashion, everything is “time passing.” Make your life mean something to you. Write that and let the pencils fall where they may.
Does your publication seek out specific styles or aesthetics of poetry that writers submitters should know about?
No. We are wide open to the possibilities that poetics can birth. Send me all citizens of poetry!
What book of poetry/craft would you always recommend to new poets?
I always give my undergrads “Letter to a Young Poet” by Rilke. Rilke tells us to embrace our solitude, live the questions that hound us, find the depth of your childhood, and try to understand your parent’s love that called you into being. I also suggest my students read manifestos from different schools of poetry, like “Personism” by Frank O’Hara, for instance. Get Edward Hirsch’s “ A Poet’s Glossary” and go through it trying to write the entries that stand out to you. The Art of Series from Graywolf is fantastic, very helpful, especially “The Art of Daring” by Carl Phillips. Try Mary Oliver’s “A Poetry Handbook.” Lewis Turco’s book on forms. My old professors say “Poetics” by Aristotle. Most importantly just read poems and figure out how they do the thing they do.
Elizabeth A.I. Powell is the author of three books of poems, most recently “Atomizer” (LSU Press). Her second book of poems, “Willy Loman’s Reckless Daughter: Living Truthfully Under Imaginary Circumstances” was a Small Press Bestseller and named a “Books We Love 2016” by The New Yorker. Her novel, “Concerning the Holy Ghost’s Interpretation of JCrew Catalogues” was published in 2019 in the U.K. She is Editor of Green Mountains Review, and Professor of Creative Writing at Northern Vermont University. Find her at www.elizabethaipowell.com.
Jose Hernandez Diaz
Jose Hernandez Diaz is a 2017 NEA Poetry Fellow. He is from Southern California. He is the author of The Fire Eater (Texas Review Press, 2020). His work appears in The American Poetry Review, Boulevard, The Cincinnati Review, Georgia Review, Iowa Review, The Nation, Poetry and in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2011. Currently, he is an Associate Editor at Frontier and Guest Editor at Palette Poetry.